Rule 2 - Prayer

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We commit to a time of personal prayer each day for up to 15 minutes

I would say that prayer is the one part of Christian life which you never feel you have fully mastered. It always seems there is so much further to go: it is a measure of the gulf between being a sinful, but forgiven, human and a sinless, perfect, holy God. 

This my limited attempt at trying to define what prayer is: 
Prayer is the ability to control the mind and bring it into the freedom of the Spirit.
Our minds are naturally programmed to be aware of the world around us. Our spirit is alive to God but much quieter than our mind. We must learn the habit of connecting our mind with our spirit, so that it becomes a ‘spiritual mind’: a mind that learns to think in harmony with the Holy Spirit. 

The biggest lesson we must learn is this one that Jesus taught: 
God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) 
The spiritual place in which God dwells is an unseen, eternal world; our present world of physical senses will one day be changed so that it can engage seamlessly with that spiritual place. This eternal spiritual realm is the one we are seeking to connect with in worship and prayer now.


I sometimes think of prayer as similar to making a wireless connection to the internet. It is not something that can be seen, but you are connecting into what seems an infinite source of knowledge. In prayer, we basically tune into God who is in the heavenly places, and then we listen. Praying involves listening. Silent prayer times with the mind in divine reflection are very important. Here is wisdom from someone's experience: 
"Although God never stops trying to communicate with us, He never wants to impose anything. Often, God's voice is heard only as a whisper, in a breath of silence. Remaining in silence in God's presence, open to the Holy Spirit, is already prayer." (Roger of Taizé)

Don’t think that prayer is simply putting words together. Prayer is a lifelong apprenticeship. When the bible exhorts us to “pray continually” we understand that prayer is to become a continual habit. We are beginning with 15 minutes in our apprenticeship. Talking, praising and listening to God throughout the whole day, is one of the privileges of being a Christian. 

Jesus on prayer 

‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8)

This is the famous passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus speaks of prayer. The main message is that prayer is a transaction between you and the Heavenly Father. Prayer is not a means of showing off to others in a display of spiritual superiority. As Jesus said here, the only reward you get for that, is the self-satisfaction of feeling better than others; there is no reward from God. Also, Jesus said: “they think they will be heard because of their many words”. People who pray well do not do so because they are particularly eloquent. Those who pray well are simply able to express the deep moving of the Spirit within them.

We should also notice how important it is to isolate yourself from distractions by going into your own room and closing the door. As our minds are so easily distracted by the things of this life, we need help to focus on the Spirit. Dallas Willard has some sound advice for us in his book 'The Great Omission':
"Among the practices that can help us attend to soul care at a basic level are solitude and silence ... We must understand that God will not compete for our attention." (p129)
You might find such experiences in places other than your own room, of course. Our age seems to hate silence; do learn to appreciate how important it is in discovering the Spirit and listening to God.

the bible on prayer

I think it would be helpful to reference a number of other short bible passages. They will give us some idea of the breadth of what prayer is:

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:10)
(Here Daniel is using a prayer posture and practising a regular rule for prayer.)

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
(Here we have some aspects of what prayer is: petitions mean asking for things, intercession means representing people or situations before God as though they were personal to you.)

 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. (Philippians 1:3-4)
(Prayer can be joyful; it is not all serious, religious intensity.)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
(Prayer applies in every situation. One of the benefits of prayer is finding peace. Experiencing peace can be a measure of how our prayer life is progressing.)

prayer scaffolds

I used the following acronym which I had read about somewhere when I began to create structure in my prayer times. It is ACTS: it stands for Adoration (worship and praise), Confession (of sins), Thanksgiving (thanking God for answers to prayer or other blessings) and Supplication (which is the old-fashioned word for asking God for things). When I began to create a prayer habit, I stuck to this order in my prayers, but I am more flexible now that it has become a habit.

The Lord's Prayer

Another structure I sometimes use is to unpack the Lord’s Prayer. By that I mean develop each line of the Lord's Prayer in a way that relates to my personal, family or other circumstances. It could also be developed in line with what is happening in the national church or specific events in your country. I also use a restructured form of words in this way:
Father in Heaven
Your name is holy
(I often go off into worship at this point especially when I reflect on the amazing creation that God has given us.)
Your kingdom come 
(This prayer has been the hope of all Christians throughout the centuries: "Lord, quickly bring your eternal heavenly kingdom to earth!")
Your will be done on earth as in Heaven
(This is expressing a wish to see the Holy Spirit work as freely as possible in our world and personal circumstances.)
Give us today our daily bread.
(I give thanks for all material blessings as well as praying for health and wellbeing for myself, family and friends.)
And forgive us our sins
(Calling to mind the great gulf between myself and God in His holiness is always humbling. Confessing sins is a special time: Jesus died for us that we might know forgiveness. Confession is a cleansing and refreshing experience.)
As we also have forgiven those who sin against us
(I always want to be free from any bitterness. Forgiving others is so basic to this. This prayer teaches us to receive whatever life throws at us in good grace, as we commit our lives to a loving Heavenly Father.)
And lead us not into temptation
(My prayer here is based on the New English Translation footnote text: do not lead us into a time of testing’. Rather than seeing temptation here as being enticements to sin, I see temptations as the extremely difficult tests that life can sometimes bring: such as those that people experience in times of war, crime or social disturbance.)
But deliver us from the evil one
(Most of all I pray not to fall into the clutches of the devil whose wish is to destroy faith. I am asking for wisdom to avoid personal deception.) 

types of praying

Prayer postures
You might like to experiment with different prayer postures to see if any are more helpful for you. Kneeling is the traditional posture. Some people have practised prostration. In Jewish tradition lifting up hands was practised too. I am always intrigued that on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell on them while they were sitting. Of course, you can pray using several postures in one session. Learn which you find most helpful. Another consideration is whether to pray silently in your mind or out loud. I have tried both, and now like to pray out loud as it helps me keep concentration. 

Other thing to work on are as follows:
Praying in a group 
When this had dawned on him (Peter), he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. (Acts 12:12)
(To get the full idea of what happened here, read the whole passage. Group praying could be 2 or 3 people together, or a whole church. You will find you can grow into this with time and practice. Hopefully it will be a group in which people trust one another; one where no one is trying to impress anyone else, and in which mistakes are accepted graciously.)

Praying fervently and righteously
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 
(James 5:16-18)
(Fervent praying is still something I am trying to discover. Living a holy and righteous life before God obviously counts a lot if prayer is to be effective.)

Praying specifically
Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
(Prayer means you should be direct in what you ask for. It should cover all areas of life.)

practical help

Aids to praying
You can develop various aids to help in your prayer times. You could keep a journal. This could be used to write down prayers or maybe keep a list of things you have specifically prayed for. I find it helpful to make lists of people I am praying for under different categories. Often, I use a different category for each day of the week. One fabulous benefit of this is that it helps me to remember people’s names, because I recall a mental image of them as I pray for them. In these days of smartphones, I have met those who set reminders to pray. One group I knew used to pray the Lord’s Prayer every day at Midday, wherever they happened to individually find themselves.

Here are some quotes relating to famous Christians of the past on prayer:
George Fox
This is a description of George as a man of prayer written by William Penn the creator of Pennsylvania:
But above all he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his address and behaviour, and the fewness and fulness of his words … it was a testimony he knew and lived nearer to the Lord

John Wesley
John wrote, “God does nothing but by prayer”. John began the Methodist Church. The name Methodists was a sarcastic term used by their opponents. It came from the fact that they lived their lives by methodical habits and rules. John rose every morning at 4 am to pray.

Rees Howells
Rees was an intercessor who lived in the 20th century. Intercession is a very specific, intense and mature form of prayer. These are some of his challenging insights:
The meaning of prayer is answer … effectual praying must be guided praying: … prayers that the Holy Spirit gave.”

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